Travel

Moving to Sweden: Things You Need to Know Before the Move

moving to sweden
Are Swedes great in bed? Do they really walk with candles in their hair in December? Do they eat rotten fish? Read on to find out if everything you thought is true.

I’m Swedish and I have a blog, Confessions of a Dizzy Blonde. At some point, I blogged about the Swedes, and it turned out to be my most popular blog ever. It seems people love googling things like “are Swedish men good in bed?” And whilst I couldn’t tell you as I left Sweden in my teens, I can tell you that many are good looking.

Men, on the other hand, want to know if Swedish women are easy to take to bed. It depends on the chemistry, of course, but unlike many other countries, love making is seen as a natural thing in Sweden. Swedish women don’t wear chastity belts. It has often amused me seeing men light up when they find out you are Swedish. Unlike their daydreams, it doesn’t mean we will grant them any wishes.

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Apart from our reputation when it comes to beauty and sex, there are other things you may already know about the Swedes. Like Ingmar Bergman, Abba, Roxette, Björn Borg, herring, Ikea, H&M, Volvo, Ace of Base, the Cardigans, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (we went to the same school, never noticed him, but I met someone in Morocco who knew him…and my gran’s brother trained him in football).

There are other athletes, but I know nothing about them. And of course, Tiger Wood’s wife comes from Sweden.

We are also, apparently famous for watches and chocolate, though that’s a misconception – the best watches and chocolate are made in Switzerland. Some are also certain we have polar bears roaming the streets. Sorry, only in a zoo. Luckily, I am here to prepare you if you have your heart set on moving to Sweden.

It’s snowing!

No, it’s not snowing all year round – we have summer (30 degrees Celsius, can you believe it?), and down in the South where I am from, we sometimes get pretty much no snow at all in winter. We also don’t have mountains down there, so we don’t all know how to ski. The mountains are further up in the North. But, we do go sledge riding down hills when snow falls, even in the South.

Most of us know how to build snow men and snow lights, and some of us have attempted building igloos at some point. We are also quite adept at making snow angels and throwing snowballs at one another. Going to school when it was snowing was somewhat dangerous as snöbollskrig (“snowball wars”) would erupt.

Plus, most of us biked to school, and whilst the snow was always cleared off the streets, you sometimes skidded off on icy patches. But the most dangerous was underkylt regn (“under cooled rain”) signifying the frozen ground when it started to rain, creating ice everywhere.

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We have a lot of different names for snow, as there’s a difference between snow and snow. I stole the list below from watchingtheswedes :

1) Blötsnö – wet, slushy snow
2) Drivsnö – snow that is blown into troublesome snow drifts
3) Aprilsnö – snow in April, according to superstition signifies plenty of food for the coming season
4) Hårdsnö – compacted hard snow
5) Konstsnö – artificial snow
6) Kramsnö – squeezy snow, perfect for making snowballs
7) Julesnö – snow at Christmas
8) Klabbsnö – wet, warm snow for building snowmen
9) Kolsyresnö – frozen carbondioxide
10) Kornsnö – small white snow breadcrumbs
11) Lappvante – thick, falling snow
12) Lössnö – snow that can loosen and be dangerous
13) Majsnö – surprising and unwelcome snow in May
14) Modd – snow that has partly melted due to salt
15) Natursnö – real snow (as opposed to artificial)
16) Nysnö – fresh snow, crisp and white
17) Pudersnö – powder snow
18) Rekordsnö – an unusual amount of snow, breaking previous snow records
19) Slask – slushy snow mixed with rain and dirt on the ground
20) Snö – snow
21) Snöblandat regn – snow mixed with rain
22) Snömos – sloppy snow that resembles mashed potato
23) Snörök – faint particles of snow that look like smoke
24) Yrsnö – snow being whipped around by the wind in all directions
25) Åsksnö – snow that pours down during a thunder storm

There’s more to the Swedes than snow, there’s even a bit of sunshine.

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Light and darkness

In the very North, you have no daylight in the darkest days of December, and no darkness at night in the lightest days of June. As you move towards the South, you have more light in winter and less in summer.

Even in the very South where I am from, during the longest days of June the sun rises around four thirty and sets around ten. It only gets properly dark between twelve and two at night, but it’s not the darkness you have in winter. In the darkest days of winter the sun rises around eight thirty and sets around three thirty.

Food

When it comes to food, we eat a lot of meat and potatoes and fish and potatoes. You have one kind of potatoes in winter and another in summer and many variations of each. The summer ones are called “new potatoes” and are often boiled with dill and served with salt and butter.

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The meats and fish we eat vary, but as for fish, the traditional pickled herring is sometimes consumed. The equally traditional surströmming (sour fish), which is really rotten fish, is also eaten from time to time.

As for meat, we do eat the traditional meatballs, which Ikea has made famous, though Ikea meatballs do not taste like proper meatballs, but rather like processed meat. Some meats are served with a berry jelly or lingonberry jam, which is similar to cranberry jam.

We also eat a lot of bread – I think there are about fifty varieties in every shop, and breakfast is often a sandwich, as is lunch. Apart from bread, we have what is known abroad as ryvita – hard crackers made from dark rye or wheat. You usually top a sandwich with cheese, liver pate and cucumber, liver sausage and pickled beetroot, sausage, or ham.

Breakfast can also be sour milk, kefir or yoghurt served with cereal and/or fruit, or oatmeal porridge on its own.

Most Swedes drink copious amounts of coffee, though the Finns outrun us as they drink the most coffee in the world. Potentially, this is due to needing caffeine during the long dark winters.

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Our bakeries are famous for their cinnamon buns/rolls, and we do put a lot of cinnamon, as well as cardamom, in our baked goods. A dessert that’s quite unique is a fruit soup or fruit “creme,” which we sometimes serve.

We also eat rosehip soup with whipped cream, or ice cream and sweep cardamom biscuits that we break and sprinkle on top. Another dessert favorite is chocolate mud cake, which is all gooey deliciousness.

Swedish clogs

Yes, they do exist, and yes, we do wear them, at least in the countryside when walking around in the garden.

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Patriotism

If you ask us what we are proud of in Sweden, we will probably not speak of Kings and Queens, old battles in war or any of that stuff. No, we will tell you about our splendid nature, which we protect endlessly, the thousands of islands we have in the archipelago, and that we have free public schools and universities.

Saving the world

Swedes are all about equality. If you’ve ever met a Swedish man, you will know that he is not some sort of brute (viking), but rather a sensitive soul whose wife has as strong a voice as he has. If a Swede, like the Foreign Minister recently did, senses any kind of inequality between the sexes, there is an outcry. A battle field, more like it.

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Swedes have been known to take it upon themselves to save the world. Some have succeeded; some have been shocked to realize it’s hard to save the world when everything isn’t as easy as back home in Sweden. Personally, I’m trying to save South Africa.

Practicality and common sense

There’s Ikea. Need I say more?

If it doesn’t work, it isn’t Swedish. If, on the other hand, you can’t read instructions, you probably won’t like us very much.

Holidays and traditions

We are quite pagan. Even though most of our traditions are dressed up with Christian names, how we actually celebrate them have nothing to do with Christianity. And though most of us are confirmed and belong to the Lutheran faith, you will find almost no one in church apart from for christenings, confirmations, weddings, maybe Christmas mass and funerals.

So let’s have a look at how we actually celebrate the holidays below.

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Påsk – Easter

This is when we celebrate fertility and witches. I know, it makes no sense. Apparently, the witches are said to have flown to Blåkulla on Ash Thursday to dance with the devil. So kids these days dress up as påskkärringar (Easter old ladies) and walk around from door to door asking for sweets, often in return for giving out handmade cards or other little gifts.

Easter Witches – long skirt, broom, apron, scarf on your head, kettle to hang on the broomstick, potentially a cat and cheeks painted with red and freckles.

This is combined with hares and eggs, which are all symbols of fertility. Traditionally, we eat eggs, pickled herring, salmon and potentially spinach soup for Easter. And of course – we drink schnapps. All Swedish celebrations come with schnapps. Often you sing a song, and then you have a sip of your schnapps.

There’s a lot of singing going on whatever we celebrate as a result, though in my family there hasn’t been much singing around Easter or Christmas, maybe because we had a lot of older relatives.

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Valborg – April 30th

This is when we gather the old stuff from winter and burn it. Basically, we have huge bonfires where we “burn out the winter.” People get together with friends or family to go watch them.

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Midsommar – Midsummer night’s eve

Another celebration of fertility – basically you erect a maypole, which is really a symbol for a penis, put garlands of flowers in your hair, dance around the maypole singing songs, and then go eat pickled herring, new potatoes and strawberries, whilst drinking plenty of Schnapps.

Later in the evening, there’s usually proper dancing by the maypole with a live band. This is one of the celebrations you often do with friends and one where people really get into the singing.

Tradition has it that if you pick seven flowers in silence, from seven different fields and put them under your pillow, then you will dream of whom you’ll marry. I tried. I dreamed of Jared Leto.

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Kräftfest – Crayfish party

This is not a holiday, but in August we have parties where we eat crayfish and drink schnapps.

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Mårten Gås – Mårten the goose

Basically, in November (10th or 11th) we eat a goose and also a soup made from goose blood, which we call “black soup.” It’s got cinnamon, cloves, etc. in it, as well as apples. Whilst it might sound disgusting, it’s a tradition that comes from the time when you used every part of the animal you slaughtered.

If anything, I believe people were more respectful in some ways back then. Today people eat packaged meat they have no idea where it came from or how the animals were treated. They don’t even think about the connection.

Though of course, in Sweden, we have extremely strict laws, so if you buy Swedish meat, chances are the animals were treated with respect. Farming and animal breeding is very controlled compared to other countries.

Marten-Gas---Marten-the-goose

The tradition stems from Saint Martinus, who was trying to hide amongst geese in Tours (Hungary), as he didn’t want to be made bishop. The geese made such a noise, he was discovered and was made a bishop anyway. It is also tied into the fast leading up to Christmas.

1:a Advent – 1st Advent

This isn’t a holiday, it’s the day when the stores traditionally put up Christmas decorations, you light the first advent candle (we have four candles in a candle-holder, and light one for each advent), and you open your advent calendar.

Traditionally, it’s the first Sunday in December, but it depends on the number of Sundays leading up to Christmas. It will be the first of four Sundays leading up to it.

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Lucia – St. Lucia

On December 13th, we celebrate the Italian Saint Lucia. They tried to burn her for her Christian faith, so we have a Lucia who wears a white dress with a red belt, and who has a crown with candles in her hair. She and her “tärnor” as well as “lussegossar” (Lucia boys) also called “stjärngossar” (starboys) walk from house to house, singing songs and handing out cake and coffee.

Again, this is a pagan tradition turned Christian – it’s about bringing light to the darkest days of December. I recommend you watch this video to really see what a lussetåg (Lucia train/procession) is really like. The same channel on YouTube provides other interesting videos about the Swedes.

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Jul – Christmas

It stems from the pagan yule celebration. The idea is that little jultomtar (small santas, or fae) who wear grey or red clothes and old wooden clogs watch people throughout the year, and the kind ones get presents. In return, you put out rice porridge (sweet, like a pudding) for the santas to eat on Christmas Eve.

This has somehow been mixed with a Christmas goat (aka julbock) that brought presents. Basically, it’s a myriad of traditions mixed into one.

This is when they traditionally slaughtered a pig to celebrate, so Christmas dinner is a big thing. There’s ham, sausage, various pates, pickled herring, gravlax, smoked eel, herring salads, eggs, potatoes and a myriad of other things. You also eat gingerbread thins, marzipan, oranges and nuts, as well as homemade candy.

Dessert is traditionally rice porridge, which is very sweet and served with cinnamon and sometimes fruit syrup. One is used to hide an almond in it, and whoever finds it, gets a gift or is said to be the next to get married. Coincidentally, married translates to “gift” which also means poison in Swedish…

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These days, a man in the family usually excuses himself to go buy the newspaper after dinner, and comes back as Santa Claus, handing out gifts. If there are no kids, the presents might just be under the tree. All celebrations happen on Christmas Eve in Sweden, as opposed to Christmas Day in America.

If you want to find out more about Sweden and the Swedes, feel free to read my blog. Or just visit Sweden!

 

About the author

Maria Montgomery

Writer. Social Entrepreneur. Foster mommy (twins). Change maker. Foodie. Health freak. Nature lover. Creative nutcase. Blogger (Confessions of a Dizzy Blonde). A friend of mine once described me by saying “One minute she’s like the Dalai Lama, the next a dizzy blonde” and maybe that does sum me up…

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